Coach: Gabe Muterspaugh, 18th season
2014: Lost to Lawrence Central 3-2 in regional semifinal. Defeated New Palestine 3-2 in sectional championship. Finished first (27 points) at Hancock County Tournament.
2015 projected lineup (with grade):
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No. 1 singles: Cassie York (11)
No. 2 singles: Molly Laughlin (12)
No. 3 singles: Sarah Jones (12)
No. 1 doubles: Addison Eads (12) and Emily Annakin (10)
No. 2 doubles: Brianna Partin (11) and Kendra Eberhard (12)
Leading the way: As a coach who has been around the nets for a long time, Mt. Vernon’s Gabe Muterspaugh rarely is caught by surprise. But when Marauders junior Cassie York returned to practice a few weeks ago, fresh off an offseason filled with private lessons and tournaments, Muterspaugh was stunned. “When I think about the jump she has made, it’s probably the most improvement from one season to the next I have ever seen,” he said. York is one of three returning Marauders that won a regional semifinal match last year. She and No. 2 doubles partner Addison Eads, an All-HHC Honorable Mention tandem, claimed a victory against Lawrence Central in the Marauders’ 3-2 regional loss. This year, Muterspaugh said, he hopes York can lead Mt. Vernon even deeper into the postseason. “She is going to surprise a lot of people this year,” he said.
Outlook: The annual battle for Hancock County supremacy between the Marauders and rival New Palestine swung the way of Mt. Vernon last season. The Dragons’ two-year reign as both county and sectional champion ended, as the Marauders claimed both and are now looking to build a streak of their own. “That’s the message, 100 percent,” Muterspaugh said. “We have five of seven girls back (from the sectional), so they have been through the battles, and that experience means something when you get into tough matches.” … Backing up York in the singles lineup is Molly Laughlin. The senior and No. 1 doubles partner Maddie Walrod, an all-HHC tandem, defeated Lawrence Central last season in the regional. This year, Laughlin makes the move to singles. “That’s where she started last year actually,” Muterspaugh said. “But she made the sacrifice for the team and was a huge help in winning the sectional championship. This year, as a senior captain playing at No. 2, she’ll be expected to win every single night.” … Rounding out a strong singles cast is last year’s No. 2 Sarah Jones (2014 All-HHC Honorable Mention). The senior came up big for the Marauders last season when she defeated Greenfield-Central standout Alli Frazier in the county tournament and New Palestine’s Kristi LeBeau in the sectional final to help her team secure both titles. … Not only does Mt. Vernon look like the presumptive favorites to repeat as county and sectional champions, but Muterspaugh said he has three freshmen whom he is “pumped about.” Olivia Spicer, soccer standout Alaina Nelson and Sophie Williams, Muterspaugh said, provide the Marauders with a bright future and even have a chance at making an impact this season.
First match: The Marauders kick off the season Thursday at Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Pendleton Heights.
Coach: Angela Kennedy, second season
2014: Lost 5-0 against New Palestine in sectional semifinal. Finished third (eight points) at Hancock County Tournament.
2015 projected lineup: Coach Kennedy would not commit to a starting lineup beyond freshman Lindsey McCord at the No. 1 singles position.
Leading the way: It sends a strong message that Greenfield-Central head coach Angela Kennedy was reluctant to announce any starters other than Lindsey McCord. Even as a freshman, the coach said, McCord has stood out among her teammates as the one to succeed Blanca Valcazar in the No. 1 position. “She’s just very consistent and very agile on her feet,” Kennedy said. “I’m (looking forward) to seeing her challenge Mt. Vernon’s No. 1 … and other county opponents.”
Outlook: In this her second season at the helm, Kennedy has a lot to learn about her young Cougars squad. With the departure of foreign exchange student Valcazar and the graduation of key 2014 contributors Alli Frazier (All-HHC Honorable Mention), Polly Baggott, Kylie Smith and Madeline Lee, among others, the coach will be placing a lot of new faces in important places. She anticipates it taking about two weeks of matches before she gains a firm understanding of the talent she has at her disposal. However, the coach is optimistic. “We’re definitely going to be better this year,” she said. “We’re a stronger team overall with some talented young players.” … Kennedy cited youngsters Jenna Allen and Haidyn Goodwin, as a pair that will have a big say in the Cougars’ success. “They both definitely have a strong chance of cracking the lineup.” … Though the Cougars will be young, Kennedy expects her upperclassmen, specifically senior Rachel Berish and junior Sarah Hudson, to demonstrate the way Greenfield-Central tennis should be played. “Both are strong leaders,” Kennedy said.
First match: The Cougars scrimmage at Triton Central today before opening the regular season with a home tilt against Alexandria-Monroe.
Coach: Chris Hardin, 10th season
2014: Lost to New Palestine 3-2 in sectional championship. Finished second (21 points) at Hancock County Tournament.
2015 Projected Lineup:
No. 1 singles: Alana Henry (10)
No. 2 singles: Kristi LeBeau (12)
No. 3 singles: Amelia Fleetwood (10)
No. 1 doubles: Lauren Hardebeck (11) and Jamie Mittman (12)/Katie Settergren (10)
No. 2 doubles: Jamie Mittman (12)/Katie Settergren (10) and Lexi Meyer (12)/Cassie Willhelm (10)
Leading the way: New Palestine head coach Chris Hardin knows asking Alana Henry to transition from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 singles player in one year is a pressure-filled request, but he thinks his sophomore and former All-Hoosier Heritage Conference Honorable Mention selection is ready. During the fall, Henry served as a manager for the Dragons’ boys team, which Hardin also coaches, and he said she took advantage of her position by working on her game. “She has improved quite a bit,” Hardin said. “She has very solid ground strokes and mechanics.”
Outlook: Hardin knows firsthand a team can have all the talent in the world, but without the ability to stay healthy, it can be for naught. Hardin’s Dragons were ravaged by injury last year, a root cause of his girls losing their two-year hold on the Hancock County and sectional tournaments. “We probably only played two or three matches at full strength,” he said. Wins will be on his mind this season, but his primary goal will be keeping his girls out of the training room and on the court. … Though he wouldn’t call this season a rebuilding year, Hardin conceded his team will not be as deep as it has been in recent seasons. A lack of depth can be attributed to the departures of All-HHC members Nicole Beaty (No. 1 singles), Kylar Litteral and Kara Miller (No. 1 doubles), as well as key doubles contributor Emily Kiefer. … Amelia Fleetwood entered spring practice in an open competition to snag the third and final singles spot and did plenty to impress Hardin. “She really wanted it,” Hardin said. “And I could tell she had played a lot over the summer. Her game has obviously improved.” … Lauren Hardebeck, an all-conference honorable mention doubles player, is the only girl locked into a doubles spot at the moment, Hardin said. Her partner will depend on who develops the best chemistry. Jamie Mittman and Katie Settergren are in competition for the position.
First match: The Dragons opened the season Tuesday against Shenandoah and will host New Castle on Friday for their Hoosier Heritage Conference debut.
Coach: Erin Wolski, fourth season
2014: Lost to Mt. Vernon 5-0 in sectional semifinal. Finished fourth (four points) at Hancock County Tournament.
2015 projected lineup:
No. 1 singles: Hailey Carlton (12)
No. 2 singles: Channing Bearhope (11)
No. 3 singles: Kayla Huff (9)
No. 1 doubles: Grace Perkins (12) and Lexi McMahan (11)
No. 2 doubles: Emiley Carlton (10) and Caitlin Contreraz (12)
Leading the way: After two straight seasons of playing No. 2 singles behind Andrea Terheide, Hailey Carlton is ready to ascend to the top of the Royals’ ranks. “She’s definitely up for the challenge,” Eastern Hancock coach Erin Wolski said. “What makes her so good is that she is quick to the ball, and she hustles. She has the best form on the team; she hits a variety of shots very well, and she has the experience with this being her third year on varsity.”
Outlook: Carlton is one of only a few returning varsity letter winners for the Royals. While that is not ideal, Wolski said, it is not something that worries her. “Many of my juniors played a lot at the JV level last year,” she said. “They got a lot of experience there, and they are excited to step up. I think we’re fortunate to have players who have been waiting for an opportunity as opposed to having players who aren’t ready.” … The work ethic and desire of freshman Kaya Huff during spring practice caught the attention of Wolski. “She has played really well against some of the older girls,” the coach said of her No. 3 singles player. “She’s very competitive. You can tell she wants it badly. I’ve been really impressed with her.” … Wolski said the No. 1 doubles team of senior Grace Perkins and junior Lexi McMahan might be the strength of the Royals. “I’m really excited to see that combination,” Wolski said. “Lexi has great ground strokes, and Grace is just super aggressive at the net. They’re going to be fun to watch.”
First match: The Royals take to the courts for the first time Thursday at Cambridge City Lincoln.